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HPD: High-end art and jewelry thieves targeted River Oaks mansions using social media

Investigators said the burglars would monitor their victims' social media accounts to determine when no one would be home.

HOUSTON — A group of art thieves tied to home burglaries in River Oaks has been arrested, Houston police announced Wednesday.

Among the victims was Houston mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee, whose home was part of a multimillion-dollar heist in February.

"Crime in this city continues to rise," said Buzbee. "I and the others whose homes were burglarized by this group of people are the lucky ones. Our crimes were solved. Most burglaries in the city remain unsolved, which is why we need more police on the street."

The arrests happened over the last few months, according Detective J.P. Varela. 

Varela said a network of suspects targeted multiple homes in Buzbee’s neighborhood. Some of the suspects were directly involved in the burglaries while others stored or sold the stolen property.

Police identified the arrested and charged suspects as Nicholas Lawrence Johnson, Nick Brown, Andre Miles, Archie Thompkins, Gashara Bradshaw, Jasmine Maynes and Julian Franklin.

Credit: Houston police
HPD art bust

They’re accused of monitoring their victims’ schedules for several days before burglarizing the homes, stealing art, jewelry, computers and guns. Investigators believe the serial burglars would follow their victims’ social media accounts to determine when homeowners would be at work, travel or even host a large party.

“They did their homework, you know,” said Varela. “If you advertised that you’re going to have a party, on social media, it’s very common that one of these guys might go in there and pose as a guest and look around your house as you had this huge party.” 

Buzbee said a tipster called his office and gave him some information on the case. Buzbee shared the information with detectives and the investigation led detectives from Houston into Fort Bend, Brazoria and Galveston counties where the suspects allegedly targeted other homes.  

Some of the recovered art is easily worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, police said. Among the paintings found was Paysage au coq rouge by Fernand Léger. It sold at a 2003 auction for about $400,000, according to Christie’s website.

Credit: Christie's
Paysage au coq rouge by Fernand Léger

La Plaine de Gennevilliers by Claude Monet was also among the stolen property. It sold for $1.2 million at a Christie’s auction.

Credit: Christie's
La Plaine de Gennevilliers by Claude Monet

Police said the burglary ring serves as another warning as to why homeowners should not post on social media that they are on vacation or traveling.

Also, if you have a home alarm system, make sure you turn it on. Many of the victims did not activate their alarm systems at the time of the burglaries, police said.

Anyone with additional information about this case is asked to call HPD’s major offenders division at 713-308-3100.

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